When To Start A New Habit (and when to keep plugging away at the old ones)

Wondering when to start a new habit? Or if you should keeping working on solidifying an old one? Click through for tips on goal setting, building good habits and breaking bad ones!

I see the question pop into the chat box, followed immediately by three thumbs up emojis.

And then a “Yeah, I was wondering that, too!”

And a “YESSSSS.”

Which is how I realized I should probably write a blog post answering one of the most common questions I get when I talk + teach about habits.

One of the most common questions I get from Make It Stick Habit School students (enrollment for the live version opens March 19th!) is “How will I know that I’ve built my habit? How will I know that it’s ‘done’ and I can move on the next one?”

Which is a great question, right? Because we all want to believe that if we do our morning pages or work out or drink green tea for, like, five days we have a new habit!

But that’s not how it works. If you’re wondering when to start a new habit – or if should keep strengthening an older one – this post is for you.

When To Start A New Habit (+ when to keep plugging away at the old ones)

1. When in doubt, work on your new habit for longer than you think you need to

Have you ever done that thing where you do something good or productive for, like, seven days in a row and then you high five yourself over your new habit? And then you take on another new habit on day eight?

Yeah! Me, too! That’s called “The first two weeks of January, 2002 – 2015”.

It feels good to tell ourselves that a habit is ‘done’ or that it’s solidified! But the truth is that ‘21-days-to-a-new-habit’ thing is total B.S. Psychologists says it’s actually closer to 66 days. And it can vary from 12 days to 265 days (!!!) depending on the person and the habit.

When we tell ourselves that our tender, fragile new habit is firm and ready to face the challenges and temptations of the real world, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

So here’s my rule of thumb: work on one new habit at a time, for at least 65 days. If you’re not sure if your new habit ‘took’? Work on it even longer.

Habits – just like most things in life – take longer than we’d like. In fact, a truism I’ve come to accept is: Pretty much everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as we’d like. But if we know that we can budget our time, money, and energy accordingly. Click To Tweet

2. You’ll know your new habit is ‘set’ when your life feels weird without it

I have a nearly-set-in-stone set of morning habits. I’ve been doing them for so long that if I miss one of the habits I feel off balance and incomplete. If I don’t read fiction on the couch? If I don’t make my bed? WHO AM I EVEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF.

That awkward incomplete feeling? That’s how you know that a habit is ‘set’ and that it’s truly taken root in your life.

If you feel strange when if you don’t meditate, don’t text your mom, don’t drink a big glass of water with every meal – congrats! You’ve developed a habit that’s part of your life. Go forth and prosper! Enjoy the benefits of a nearly-on-autopilot habit what will make your life awesome without you having to think about it!

But if you feel sneaky or relieved when you skip a habit – like you’re getting away with something – that means you’ve got a ways to go before it’s really part of you life.

But I want to hear from you! Do you try to convince yourself that a habit is solidified way too early? What habit are you working on right now? I’m ‘saving’ my habit for the next round of Habit School so I can work on it alongside everybody!

P.S. How to strengthen your good habit muscle!

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Web Time Wasters

How was your week, friends? We had YET ANOTHER giant snow storm here in Minneapolis. We’ve had to dig trails around the yard so our little dog can go outside! As you read this, I’m back in Costa Rica, leading another retreat for Fit & Fly Girl. Lucky, right? You can follow along on Instagram if you need photos of beaches in your life!

Links for you 

After 20 years + 38 countries, 7 travel tools I won’t shut up about.

Such pretty necklaces!

Every time I share a photo of our dog Loretta in her bright pink, full-body snowsuit people want to know where we got it. Now you know!

A NYFW Street Style Gallery Dedicated to Plus-Size Women

Ooof. Yes. I’ve been here SO MANY TIMES. Get in the water.
“Get in the water,” says my hut. “You love being in the ocean more than anything. You will not regret it. You will feel so alive. Go! Dive in! Just get in for one minute! This is your one and only life! What are you waiting for?”

“But it’s a little cloudy today,” whines my brain. “Also, it might be cold. And besides, you’re not even wearing a bathing suit. You didn’t pack a towel. You just blow-dried your hair. It looks like it could rain. You have a lot of emails to answer. You have a meeting starting in an hour. And what about sharks?! Today isn’t an ideal day for swimming. Come back tomorrow. Not today.”

I love this 20/20/20 rule.

I found my first grey hair last year and I don’t intend to do anything about it (mostly because you can’t really see grey hair on blondes). But I loved this story about women who have gone completely grey and love it!

A great idea if you’re sentimental AND a minimalist.

Real, actual LOL.

If you’ve ever wanted to see me politely fight with people in Instagram comments….

How to feel unproductive and worthless in one easy step!

Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?
I was told it might be a consequence of the hookup culture, of crushing economic pressures, of surging anxiety rates, of psychological frailty, of widespread antidepressant use, of streaming television, of environmental estrogens leaked by plastics, of dropping testosterone levels, of digital porn, of the vibrator’s golden age, of dating apps, of option paralysis, of helicopter parents, of careerism, of smartphones, of the news cycle, of information overload generally, of sleep deprivation, of obesity. Name a modern blight, and someone, somewhere, is ready to blame it for messing with the modern libido.

A good Netflix recommendation!

A tour of a pretty 350-square foot apartment. Love that sofa!

Did you sing along to Baby Beluga as a kid? Apparently, Raffi is the world’s nicest hardass.
Onstage, Raffi’s persona is avuncular and avowedly apolitical. But on social media — yes, even Raffi tweets — he has become something of a lightning rod, frequently trolling Trump with impish abandon. Recent entrants in the endless Raffi drag: “The word #emoluments sounds oddly exotic. crazy language, English.” and simply “#ResistFascism.” If this feels like a shocking twist for a man seemingly obsessed by the various motions of bus parts, it’s not. Raffi is a folk singer, in the mold of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, whose guitar sported the famous sticker, “This machine kills fascists.” That’s not precisely what Raffi’s machine does, but it’s not far off.

I do not have a toddler, but this made me laugh.

Raise you hand if you’ve fallen into this trap: feeling obligated to turn a hobby into a hustle.

 

Web Time Wasters

How was your week, friends? I had tons of coffee dates with tons of friends and Kenny and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a long lunch at Caffe Biaggio. I extremely recommend the Valentine’s Day lunch! Cheaper, calmer, and so much easier!

This time next week, I’ll be back in Costa Rica again – leading another retreat for Fit & Fly Girl. So I’m doing my monthly No Grocery Challenge to use up all ‘my’ food before I head out. I don’t want all that cauliflower to go bad while I’m gone! You can follow along and see what I make here.

Links for you

Want to protest Trump’s emergency declaration? Here’s a script for calling your elected officials.

A great resource if you’d like to share more diverse books with the kids in your life!

FACT.

Fellow bloggers and Internet People: Everybody tells me I need one of these. Discuss.

This book is seemingly about Instagram but, honestly, it’s about so much more. Finding your voice as a creative, discovering art and beauty in daily life, community. So good!

Salted maple pie! I think I could make this during my next No Grocery Challenge!

Is less scheduling the secret to happiness?
We schedule activities back-to-back for fear of not accomplishing them all. Malkoc — who has an expertise in how people perceive and consume their time — links the over-scheduling of free time to the value that we place on achievement over contentment.

“The focus on productivity is so widespread that people even strive to make leisure productive and brag about being busy,” reads the paper.

So we do more and enjoy less.

“When scheduled, leisure tasks feel less free-flowing and more forced — which is what robs them of their utility.”

Related: How to figure out what makes you happy so you can add more of it to your life

How to get over a heartbreak

You don’t build a new brain–or a new life–just by giving it time. Time is not enough. You also need action.

Action. Movement. Forward momentum. Even the smallest step–taking a breath, opening the window to let in some fresh air, trying on a new shirt, checking out a new book from the library–begins to reshape the architecture of your mind.

Action is the medicine that brings you back to life.

I agree! This $2.75 was one of my best travel purchases!

A game to play with the kids in your life (without getting up off the couch)

How educational debt shapes our lives and choices
Debt forms us just as radically as a university curriculum does. As bills mount, debt becomes a guiding force in our lives, directing our decisions about where to live, where to work, how to save and spend, and what we imagine possible. The anxiety, regret, and shame over one’s inability to determine one’s own life shapes our souls as well.

Related: did you know I host a free, private Facebook group called Money & Happy where we talk about stuff like this? Join me an 4,400+ smart, kind humans having honest conversations about money!

Hope you had a lovely weekend!

8 relationship habits that will make everything easier, smoother, and more fun

Can you turn being a good partner into a habit? Are there such things as “good relationship habits”? Yes! Click through to read about eight of them!

Can you make it a habit to be a good partner? Are there such things as “good relationship habits”? (I can hear you being skeptical from all the way over here.) 

You might be sick of hearing me talk about habits by now (not stopping anytime soon!), but I truly believe that they’re one of the secrets to a life well-lived. Studies vary, but psychologists and neurologists estimate that between 40 and 95% of what we do every day is habitualized – including how we interact with our partners.

So it stands to reason that building even one good relationship habit (or breaking a bad one), could have a big impact on your relationship. If you’re not sure where to start, read on!

(more…)

Web Time Wasters

What’d you get up to last week, friends? We hosted friends for brunch yesterday, but – honestly – it’s been pretty much just de-icing and shoveling and rescheduling plans due to ice and snow all week. Ooof!

Links for you:

Are we improving ourselves to death?
Many are psychologists with impressive academic pedigrees and a commitment to scientific methodologies, or tech entrepreneurs with enviable records of success in life and business. What they’re selling is metrics. It’s no longer enough to imagine our way to a better state of body or mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts—then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat.

Related: The Glorious Freedom of ‘Good Enough’ + How To Find It

Some good thoughts about price + value

Grimace emoji: The unsettling psychology of an Amazon Prime addiction

“I definitely feel like I’m spending more than I should on things I probably don’t need,” Melissa says. “I feel like I come up with excuses to buy things when I could just as easily do something more productive, like creative writing, working out. I used to indulge a lot more before I had to pay rent and before my credit cards had to be canceled (by me, voluntarily). But I’m still living beyond my means.”

Though she has a decent enough salary to make her rent, rent is a huge chunk of her income, and her Amazon habit means she still turns to her parents for money. Because they never come to collect, they inadvertently end up footing the bill. That leads to arguments, and she sometimes hides purchases from them.

New (to me) podcast obsession: You’re Wrong About …

4 reasons you should try small town travel + what to do when you get there!

A true lol for all former theater and/or choir kids

This is so cool! In January of 2017, I interviewed Alessandra Biaggi about her work as Hillary Clinton’s Deputy National Operations Director. Now she’s a state senator for New York!

Fascinating: US book covers vs. UK book covers.

Supernatural collective nouns (a racket of banshees!)

This apartment tour is all my favorite things: a small, rented space that gorgeous and has been been thoughtfully decorated with thrifted things (but looks like a million bucks)

A (new to me) free tool for anyone who works with clients or students!

I’ve mentioned before how getting serious about Pinterest dramatically increased my traffic (here’s the class I took). Pinterest just released their report on the top trends for 2019. I guess it’s a good year small town travel, Brazil, bakuchiol, and DIY goat milk soap?

Related: if you like these links, you’ll like my Pinterest boards, too!

Hope you had a great weekend, friends!

9 Zero Waste Travel Tips That Won’t Suck The Joy Out Of Your Trip

Looking for zero waste travel tips? Want to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling? Or just waste less? It's possible to take part in environmentally-friendly travel without it sucking!

“Zero waste travel? That sounds … joyless,” my friend teases as we pick at a pile of nachos.

“It really does, doesn’t it?” I laugh. When I first started thinking about my carbon footprint and how much waste I produce while traveling I pictured myself eating lentils out of a mason jar, while waiting for the subway.

Not relaxing, not lovely, not very, uh, vacation-y.

But as I started to tweak and test and I discovered that – counter-intuitive and unlikely as it sounds – I actually enjoyed my trips more when I did these things.

I got through security at the airport faster, I had more conversations with locals + more picnics in the park, and I was less likely to spill coffee or leftovers all over my bag. (A surprisingly and frustratingly common occurrence.)

9 Zero Waste Travel Tips That Won’t Suck The Joy Out Of Your Trip

A giant asterisk: None of us are perfect and most things we do have SOME impact on the environment. I don’t want your trip to be a hard, boring slog of eating sandwiches while walking in the rain and denying yourself any joy or convenience.

Try one or two of these things! Do what’s easiest for you. And if you try something and it sucks the joy right out of your trip, don’t do it again. Try something else. Eat the fish and spit out the bones. (Ya know, like metaphorically.)

1. Experiment with road tripping + train travel 

If you’re traveling for the sake of traveling (like, an ‘I just need to get out of a town’ vacation), consider a destination you can reach in some manner that doesn’t involve a plane. I was horrified to learn that taking one round-trip flight between New York and California generates about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that a car emits over an entire year.

I’m not suggesting we give up flying completely – that’s simply not an option for a lot of people. But when we’re thinking about travel in general (rather than a trip to a specific place, for a specific reason), what if we at least considered a road trip? What if we at least opened the Amtrak tab and scrolled around for five minutes?

As a side note, I like road trips a million times better than air travel. I like being able to pull over whenever I want, explore anything I see, and take the scenic route.

Also: road trips down require me to take off my shoes, belt, scarf, and jewelry while a stranger pats me down.

Related: Everything you need to know to plan an amazing road trip

2. Take a longer vacation

In case you needed it: here’ s your official permission to make your vacation longer. If we’re going to use up all that jet fuel getting some place, we might as well make it worth our while!

So tack some extra days onto that business trip or really, actually use all your vacation days this year. 52% of Americans don’t use all their vacation time! If you’ve got paid vacation time, uuuuuuuse iiiiiiiit. Taking time off literally makes you a better worker!

3. Book the direct flight

Jets burn the most fuel during take off, so here’s your excuse to buy the direct flight – one fewer flight > one fewer take-off > fewer emissions.

Also, you might want to stick with coach. Because there are more seats in coach, that means more people per tank of fuel, which means a smaller environmental impact. In fact, the emissions associated with flying business class are three times (!!!) that of flying coach. (Don’t worry, you can still get that exit row upgrade in coach!)

If you’d like to buy carbon offsets you can, but most airlines now have them baked into your flight cost! If you want to buy them anyway, you can do that here.

4. Skip baggage claim

Packing carry-on only means lighter luggage, which means better gas mileage for your road trip and an easier take off for that jet you’re on.

Also, let’s be real. Trundling down the baggage claim and waiting for 15 minutes isn’t fun.

Here’s how I packed in a carry-on for a six-week, multi-country, multi-climate trip. It’s not as hard as it sounds. I promise!

5. See the city on bike, foot, or bus

Some of my favorite travel memories involve public transport in other countries – watching people climb on top of the buses in southern Nepal, sharing snacks with my train-car mates in India, making conversation in my terrible Spanish on the bus in Costa Rica.

Public transport gives you insights into ‘real life’ at your travel destination. It also happens to be cheaper and better for the environment than taking taxis everywhere.

Most major western cities have bike sharing programs and it wouldn’t be a visit to the Netherlands if you didn’t take part in their bike culture.

And, of course, walking creates zero emissions, is good exercise, and allows you to explore a city slowly enough that you discover hidden gems. When I was in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, my friend and I stumbled across this cemetery as we were poking around San Jose. It’s one of my favorite memories of the whole trip!

Download the City Bike app to see where you can pick up and drop off bikes or check out these apps that help you find walking tours of cities all over the world.

6. Stay in an Airbnb or a vacation rental

Airbnb and vacation rentals aren’t perfect – nothing is. But from an environmental impact standpoint, they’re a jillion times better than hotels. Think of all those empty hotel rooms being heated and cooled, those hallways with the lights on all night, and the constant washing of sheets and towels, often after one use.

Besides, you get more for your tourism dollar in a vacation rental, it’s easier to stay in a ‘real’ neighborhood, and you often have a kitchen so you can make a few meals in-house and save $$$. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!

7. Try a new restaurant

Bad news: milk, cheese, and meat aren’t particularly great for the planet. Good news: your trip can be an opportunity to try an amazing vegetarian or vegan restaurant in your destination city!

This site will help you find vegan and vegetarian restaurants in any zip code. Or just use this trip as an excuse to eat more avocados, more peanut butter, and more bread than ever!

8. BYO… most things

We can dramatically reduce the amount of waste we create while traveling with a tiiiny bit of planning. We can bring our travel coffee mugs and water bottlesa set of silverware, a tiffin for restaurant leftover or impromptu picnics, and a reusable bag.

And if you’re thinking, “That sure seems like an annoying hassle, Sarah,” I get it!

You know what I hate more than the hassle of packing this extra stuff? I hate carrying my delicious restaurant leftovers in my hands for an hour because the Styrofoam clamshell they gave me isn’t watertight, so if I put it in my bag it’ll leak pasta all over.

I don’t like drinking coffee out of little paper cups that burn my hand and don’t keep my coffee warm. I hate eating takeout with a tiny plastic fork that breaks when I use it on a piece of apple.

So, yes, bringing these things is better for the environment but, selfishly, they’re better for me. They keep my coffee warm longer. They let me put my leftovers in my bag and forget about them. They make my picnic nicer and my trip to the picturesque street market more enjoyable.

9. Forget about that dang 3 ounce rule!

Three ounces of shampoo and conditioner is not going to get you through your two week trip. Shampoo and conditioner bars create less waste, last much longer than their liquid counterparts, and don’t count towards that three-once rule. More space in your one-gallon ziplock for other awesome, liquid things!

You can also find face wash, sunscreen, face cream, and body lotion in bar form. Or toothpaste in … tab form? They won’t spill in your bag and they’ll last forever!

I want to hear from you! Share your best environmentally-friendly travel tips in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously 

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash